LOS ANGELES — President Bush attended the White House Conference of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Los Angeles Convention Center yesterday and addressed how effective it is to support faith-based organizations for the well-being of society reflecting on his belief that the government "can hand out money ... but [the] government can't put hope in a person's heart, or a sense of purpose in a person's life."
Bush said, "It is essential for those of us in government to recognize the vital work that faith-based programs are able to do."
Bush has been inspired by the community leaders who remind him the "true strength of the country" is the fact that there are "decent, honorable citizens who would like to love their neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves."
President Bush praised the works of faith-based organizations reaching out to people who suffer from the poverty, hunger, homelessness, and drug and alcohol addiction. He also mentioned the successful real-life stories of people who overcame struggles through such faith-based programs, including his own story of how his Christian faith helped him quitting drinking.
Bush said, "We used to drink too much, and our hearts changed and then we quit. That is a tried-and-true formula. The problem is that government isn't good at changing hearts."
"What we are talking about here are miracles," Bush said, "All faiths have heard a universal call. Using faith to help your communities is good public policy."
Bush noted that some administration critics are in deep concern of preserving separation of state and religion. However he clarified that his programs are not interfering with religion.
"There are rules. You can't use money to proselytize," Bush said addressing the audience of 500 people, "But you can use federal money to help a person quit drinking. You can't say, 'Only Methodists allowed.' You can say. 'All drunks are welcome.' "
The Bush administration gave nearly 500 faith-based programs $477 million in 2002 and 680 programs $568 million last year.
"We need to expand" the program, Bush said. "There are more souls to be saved, and the government's got the resources."